When it comes to drus and alcohol use, everyone knows there are subsequent risks present, whether use is a one-time thing or a habit developed over many years. No matter who misuses the substances, be they drugs, alcohol or both, numerous studies show that substance use in teens and young adults has significantly higher risks than substance use in adults.

This means that as damaging as substance abuse is in adults, it’s increasingly worse for those below the age of 25. 

Why is substance abuse more dangerous for young adults? 

Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are the most commonly abused substances by teens, all of which have a negative effect on the brain. Because normal brain development is not completed until the mid-20s, substance abuse before that age can impair the growth and development of the brain. 

For example, substance use dangerously affects the development of myelin and synaptic refinement, that is, the processes of the brain responsible for the ability to plan and organize, process information quickly and efficiently, and curb impulses. This means that if these developments in the brain are impaired during adolescence, they will be less effective in adult years.

Strictly speaking, an adult with substance abuse in their past might have trouble with impulse control, organizational skills and efficient thinking processes. 

In addition to this, substance use affects the body by: 

  • Harming the body’s pleasure receptors 
  • Negatively impacting memory 
  • Training the brain to expect external or synthetic versions of chemicals (dopamine), rather than creating healthy levels of these chemicals on its own 

And while all these risks are associated with adult substance use as well, their effects are harsher on the still-developing mind and body of a teen, versus the fully physically developed mind and body of an adult.

Risks associated with substance abuse

Substance use doesn’t just affect the physical body, it impacts the social and emotional aspects of a young adult’s life as well. Drug and alcohol use impairs the brain, leading to a lack of judgement and rationale. A clear example would be drunk driving, and unfortunately, individuals under the age of 21 are at twice the risk of being involved in a fatal drinking and driving accident than adults. 

In addition, substance use has many additional side effects, including: 

  • Combining more than one substance at a time 
  • A greater potential for addiction in adulthood
  • Problems at school, like poor grades or low attendance
  • Issues with peers, such as withdrawal from activities and/or fighting with others
  • Being the victim or perpetrator of sexual or physical violence
  • Engaging in careless behavior, like vandalism, driving and sexual activity 
  • A greater risk for being involved in legal problems
  • Emotional/mental health struggles, including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts

What causes teen substance use?

There is no one cause of drug and alcohol abuse in teens, but some circumstances predispose a teen to substance use more than an individual who never experienced said circumstances. 

These include:

  • Easy access – approximately 50% of teens say that marijuana isn’t difficult to acquire
  • The home environment – teens who live in a household with parents who abuse substances are much more likely to use than those whose parents do not 
  • Peer pressure
  • A pre-existing mental condition – commonly, substance use habits co-occur with depression, anxiety, PTSD, BPD and ADHD, to name a few
  • Experiences of physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse and/or trauma 

Preventing teen substance use 

As with many things, talking about the dangers of substance abuse at home can significantly lessen the potential for a teen to use an illegal substance. Parents have a crucial responsibility in educating their children on the dangers of substances and the importance of avoiding them for the sake of their health, physically and mentally, as well as their future. Sadly, too many teens and young adults forget the impact one night of reckless drinking or drug use could have on the rest of their lives. 

However, hope is not lost and recovery is possible. Whether a young adult suffers from binge drinking or frequent drug use, or has engaged in the activity prior and is seeking help before it transforms into a lifelong problem, help is always available. At Real Recovery Clinical Services, our therapists and counselors specifically keep in mind the characteristics of young adult development, and direct treatment to meet the individual needs of each person based on their stage in life. Complete recovery and freedom of the mind and body is not just the goal, but the expectation of clients seeking out help.

Call (855) 363-7325 today, to put proven clinical substance use services to work on your life, or in the life of a loved one.